We found ourselves together–the priests of the diocese. We get together for a couple days every October, for our annual Priests’ Convocation.
Every October we sing the same hymns at our prayers. Every October the bishop spends forty minutes talking to us about himself. Every October a professional traveling speaker bores us unto truancy.
Same this year. Everything proceeded exactly as it always does. The eerie air of normalcy has driven me insane.
In our parishes, no one trusts anyone in the hierarchy–other than the parish pastor. Our most-dedicated volunteers wonder: What kind of future does our Church have? Outside the Church, our institution has become a byword for hypocrisy and corruption. And the Catholic people continue to wonder: Do we know how to deal with sex abuse? Does anyone pay attention to the victims? Will anyone in authority ever answer our questions honestly? Or give an account for their own actions or omissions?
Our people have these questions. And we have land-mined our own mission field with suspicion and doubt. The Church with the duty to proclaim God’s truth to the world has entered into a period of moral receivership. State Attorneys General provide the kind of oversight that our own bishops have spent the past forty years failing to exercise. International pressure on the Vatican–to make its secrets known–mounts; a diplomatic crisis looms.
No one in the hierarchy offers any answers. We parish priests hang out there to dry, trying to do our thing, holding fast to the mysteries of the faith…
We had a chance to talk all this over. We didn’t. We could have heard our bishop’s plan for how to help us through this. He doesn’t have one.
What exactly is the crisis? Are schismatics trying to break down the communion of Christ’s Church? Will the pope have to resign because too many people lose confidence in his honesty? Is there a Gay Mafia operating at high levels? How can we get past this endless scandal?
We had a golden opportunity to talk these questions over, here at the Diocesan Priests’ Convocation. We did not take that opportunity.
What do we really stand for, at this point? Does a Catholic parish priest represent a worldwide institution that people can believe in? Do we ourselves, we priests, believe in this institution? Do we have any confidence that the pope and bishops will co-operate and solve the ‘problem?’ Do we think the pope and bishops understand what the problem is?
Talk it over together? Try to identify the problem? Not this October.
Theodore McCarrick’s “incoherence” as a priest and as a man (to use Card. Ouellet’s word)–McCarrick’s incoherence–it is in the process of corroding the mutual trust of dozens of bishops, hundreds of priests, and thousands of Catholics. Our institution operates on the currency of mutual trust. That mutual trust is corroding. This is in the process of happening.
We had a chance to talk it all over together. We didn’t. We carried on like a cancer patient who refuses to discuss the diagnosis.
Cancer rages in our organs. We carried on as if it were just another October.
Dear faithful people, please forgive us. You deserve braver priests than this.
Our traveling professional speaker referred at one point to Christ’s gaze. I feel His gaze. And I am ashamed. Of the blinkered, irrational institutional ‘normalcy’ of which I am a part.